Solar panels have become increasingly popular in recent years. Around 970,000 UK households are using the technology to not only reduce their reliance on the National Grid but to lower their carbon emissions.
With energy bills set to rise by 54% when the new energy price cap is introduced in April, installing solar panels is an even more attractive proposition.
If you already have solar panels or are considering getting them installed on your roof you may want to invest in solar batteries as well. Solar panel battery storage will allow you to store any excess energy your solar panels generate during the day and to use it when your panels are not producing electricity at night.
Pairing solar batteries with solar panels is a relatively new practice, but an effective one. Unless you and your household use electricity every minute of every day you will have solar power that goes unused. Typically, you’ll lose 50% of the electricity produced by your panels if you don’t have a solar battery as your unused electricity will go straight back to the grid. Solar batteries enable you to store any surplus energy for use at a later time, reducing your reliance on electricity supplied by the National Grid even further, cutting your energy bills and lowering your carbon footprint.
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Without doubt, battery storage in homes is vital for the future as it can help people use more renewable technology, reduce the evening peak demand and avoid costly transmission upgrades to the National Grid. Storage technology has improved an enormous amount in the last few years and is becoming more affordable as time goes on.
The number of homes using solar batteries is currently only around 10,000 as the extra cost on top of the solar panels themselves is a barrier to many people. The average solar battery costs £4,500. The main contributors to solar battery costs are the chemical materials that make up the battery, the life cycle of the battery, the storage capacity and the usable capacity. The return on your investment in solar batteries will be affected by battery capacity, battery degradation, and the fluctuation of electricity prices.
The two most commonly found chemical materials in batteries used for solar panel systems are lithium-iron and lead-acid. Though lithium-iron batteries are more expensive they still enjoy a bigger market share due to their longer lifespan and higher usable capacity.
A solar battery will typically last you 10-15 years which means over the 25-year lifespan of most solar systems you will need to buy two batteries which effectively doubles the cost.
However, you may find the benefits far outweigh the pain of the initial costs. Here are the key reasons for choosing to invest in battery storage alongside your solar system:
- You can maximise the solar energy used at home. By storing energy for later use you can save more money.
- You can be more independent from the National Grid which gives you better protection from energy price rises.
- You can significantly lower your energy costs.
- You can be sure that more of the electricity you use at home is zero-carbon as many renewable tariffs are not as green as they seem.
- You can earn money by selling stored energy to the grid.
- You have protection from power cuts.
- You can take advantage of off-peak charging by signing up to a time of use tariff which means you can store energy when it’s cheap and avoid importing when it’s expensive.
You can sell your surplus energy back to the National Grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which is a government backed initiative that requires energy suppliers with 150,000 customers or more to pay ‘small scale generators’ for low-carbon electricity. The maximum you can receive currently is 5.5p per kWh (offered by Octopus Energy).
While electricity is at least 18.9p per kWh and soon to be much higher, you’ll save more money by simply storing your surplus energy in your solar battery to use later. Higher grid electricity prices make storing your own energy in solar batteries much more worthwhile. You can lower your energy costs significantly by charging the solar battery during off-peak periods and discharging it during peak hours. The amount you save by paying less to your utility company can serve towards reducing your battery system costs.
By using photovoltaics with a battery, you could essentially run your home on 100% renewable solar energy day and night, if your electricity demand does not exceed the supply that your battery can provide.
Storing your solar -generated energy in a battery is also far more efficient as more of your electricity is used where it’s made because it doesn’t have to travel anywhere.
It’s important to consider what size of battery you will need. If your battery capacity is too small you won’t be able to store much electricity and you’ll end up using an unnecessary amount of electricity from the grid. You should consider installing a battery with a bigger capacity if you live in a large house.
The idea behind time of use tariffs or TOUs is to encourage customers to use energy at off-peak times. The TOU flexible tariff offers you cheaper electricity prices when demand and energy prices are at their lowest. You will need a smart meter to monitor prices and then this data can be used to move some types of energy use to cheaper periods, helping to avoid high, peak rate prices.
Nobody loses out this way as energy companies can offer lower prices at off-peak times so they can better manage demand, and customers can lower their bills.
It’s difficult to give a definitive answer on the ROI of solar batteries because it depends entirely on how much or little a battery is used to determine how much is saved. One thing you can be sure of though, is that a solar battery will reduce your grid reliance, meaning you’ll spend less on your energy bills.
Interest in solar batteries is definitely growing. Which.co.uk ran a survey in 2019 which found that just 6% of solar panel owners had their own batteries but 74% would consider purchasing one. This was an increase on the 2018 results when only 60% of respondents said that they’d consider a solar battery. A survey conducted by Which? In May 2019 found that almost 75% of 119 solar battery owners said that battery storage had helped them save money on electricity to a great extent or some extent.
If you can afford to install a solar battery, it is a worthwhile investment for their convenience alone. You can have peace of mind knowing that if you have a power cut, your battery will come to the rescue. They are a fantastic addition to your solar panels if you are thinking about moving completely off-grid as with good management, enough power and a large enough capacity, a solar battery can ensure that you never run out of electricity.